Thursday, February 25, 2010

Duckpower hits the ice... day one...

The Elusive Great Pond Northern Pike

Cruising along in my GMC Sierra knowing that once again I would be on time, I gave the mighty Outdoorsman a jingle on the cell phone to inquire his whereabouts. You see he had this master plan for me to connect with him at this lake I had never even seen. Our planning the night before from his perspective only suggested that I find this landing at this point on map 20 of the Maine Atlas. Even with Google Maps, I jawed the entire tenure about his high expectations concerning my own navigational prowless. Fortunately for me, he had gone in to work early and checked out in time for us to meet at high noon at his residence. For some reason, my consistent time management skills are never good enough for the man who is constantly late when the boot is on the opposite foot. I suppose he conveniently forgets that he cost me about 2 hours of lobster fishing time last summer because he had to take pictures of a ruffed grouse in the middle of the road to enhance the visual portion of his nationally acclaimed blog...

As I quickly grabbed my ice fishing gear, I asked Mr. Outdoorsman how his auger was running and he replied with a worrisome “I was hoping yours was running well.” Translation, he figured as always that I was prepared as usual so that he neglect any extra responsibility. I gave it a test pull for one reason only, to avoid any type of public flogging over the internet from the one who I think is my friend. It fired without hesitation and was loaded into the truck for some hole drilling action. Steve mumbled something about how it would perform, I smiled and said, “We'll see....”

I had enough foresight to grab bait at my own local venue to avoid randomly searching for one in central Maine. Steve had mentioned the night before about this spot, but I knew that his misdirection would only forfeit more time in my trip. In addition, I knew the quality of the bait I would be bringing as opposed to taking a chance with the Maine Outdoorsman.

We hauled out of the driveway to the scream of “I can't drive fifty-five” in haste so that Steve wouldn't have to help his wife unload the children, three hundred dollars worth of groceries, and the diaper bag. Apparently, I thought, this might be a ploy to utilize me as a reason for skirting his family responsibilities. On any account, the head banging continued as I found some old earplugs in my waders to counteract his enthusiasm for heavy metal.

The wind and sunshine both seemed to be in full force at the landing, which was on the west end of a long narrow point. I hoped we would be on the leeward side, and my wishes were granted as Steve guided us through a footpath to a small cove. I inquired about his lack of steel on the bottom of his boots, he responded with a witty retort of “I'll be fine and you worry about yourself”. I laughed inside and wished for a magical digger, slip, wipe out, or damaging fall. Choose whatever term you'd like, any of them would fit for my hopes and dreams directed upon the sure footed sportsman. Fortunately for me, my father-in-law had given me some steel creepers that “they just don't make anymore”. I would motor all around the cove without fear of falling while I watched Steve negotiate every step like it would be his last.

We would hit the east side of this point at the boat ramp to avert the sharp Northwest wind and declining sun...

It didn't take long to set the gear into the water and our base camp put us near the shoreline well out of the biting wind that battered the point. Steve pulled out his mountaineering camp stove and super size red #7 agents of pain and suffering. For the condiments we would enjoy relish, ketchup, and mustard all stolen from the cafeteria that morning. In just a few minutes, we were dining on a most excellent lunch of hot dogs and chips. However, I immediately began to recognize that this fare was no longer on my family menu of healthy living. There would be reckoning for this and I hoped that Steve's wife would forgive me for the crimes I intended to commit.

There were several flags early in our afternoon, including a most impressive display by the Maine Outdoorsman who was speeding towards a flag that had been quietly raised by yours truly while returning from shifting ice traps further out in the cove. His excitement and anticipation honestly amused and upset me at the same time, after ten minutes of watching the motionless reel I informed him of my inappropriate intentions. He growled about something or better yet, nothing and slipped angrily to base camp. My guess is that he was plotting some type of pay back either through the short term means or by avenue of eloquent writing to smear and defame my good reputation. For a smidgen of his libel check out The Maine Outdoorsman.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Big 34...

The Maine Outdoorsman pulling a Northern Pike through the ice... be ready for his drivel and endearing efforts of dishonesty and rumor...

Another year has passed and I wouldn't qualify the year as the best ever. Our family has endeared loss, challenges, and hard times while also witnessing major pivotal moments of transition, accomplishments, and opportunity. With that said, I'd like to share in my weekend that puts me yet another year closer to the end.

A cold, wet snout raked across my face and the smell of dog permeated my personal space this early morning. This was not how I envisioned the beginning of my 34th birthday, but I suppose the undying love of a dog that I would consider annoying is better than no attention at all. Here I lay in the guest room of the Maine Outdoorsman, aka Rabid Outdoorsman, aka Sheldrake Steve, aka Duck Hammer, aka owner of chubby dog Onyx who was licking my face.

I could hear the banter of his little men down the hall and soon the early preparations of the day were in full effect. The plan was to have breakfast, and then bolt for home before my beauties got home from Sunday school and church. Only three hours of driving would be the obstacle in my plans.

This weekend jaunt for northern pike was the best attempt to rectify the poor planning made in regards to the much anticipated salmon/lake trout fiasco that had been previously planned. I'm appreciative that Steve would make time to at least offer me an opportunity to catch a fish of great magnitude.

We did get a series of flags Friday afternoon at Great Pond of the Belgrade Lakes chain, but only two traps proved successful. However, my catch was less than satisfactory while Steve managed to pull in a nice 24 inch Northern Pike. Upon dusk, we quickly gathered the gear and made way to base camp.

The next day would require travel by avenue of all terrain vehicle as we cruised out to Hoyt Island on Great Pond for an early set up. Unfortunately, our rewards for researching, planning, and implementation yielded only one flag in the early afternoon. Battered but not beaten, we chose to quit before dusk to load the equipment properly and get back for a meal that would be waiting for my consumption.

Although we had little success, I absolutely enjoyed my two days in central Maine. Sometimes being in the outdoors isn't necessarily about limiting out or taking a trophy, but much rather an opportunity to share time with a great friend and figure out how to better ourselves and the world around us. For that, I'm thankful for the time off and chance to reflect on the things working well in my life while considering the avenues of improvement. Next time, the 23 pound northern pike will find its way through the ice (and not Steve's hole).

I did get home in record time and well before the return of my little beauties. Once they arrived, we immediately hit the floor for some creative design (coloring) including my rough plans for an ice fishing shack that will attach to a trailer I've been working on. Everything else went without hesitation; a great ham dinner, cake & ice cream, and cards were opened. Throw that in with some snuggle time, reading a few books with the girls, and an early bedtime made for an early evening.

Even though my 365 days from age 33 to 34 have been full of sadness and loss, I do realize how fortunate I am to build this world and most importantly to build two most wonderful and aspiring young ladies. I'm a lucky man to have my life and I sincerely hope that this next year gives more in life than it takes away, but that is in God's hands...

I'll end tonight with a line from the card my wife gave me-
You are the arms around me when I'm feeling all alone in the world, and the only person in the universe that I'd ever want to spend forever with.

It's amazing that she chose me, and even greater that I'm forever in her eyes. Again, I'm a lucky man...

The Downeast Duck Hunter

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ice Fishing Fail

After the biggest outdoors letdown I've experienced in quite some time, I've tried to put together the pieces of my vacation that have included a family weekend in the big city of Bangor, an ice fishing venture at Matt Diesel's new camp, and an upcoming ice fishing trip with the Maine Outdoorsman to central Maine in pursuit of some northern pike.

However, I did manage to get both my beauties out for some ice fishing action today and found that things got interesting as my youngest daughter approached a tip up. So I fired up the new Canon Vixia HF 20 and began to video the landmark event only to discover that she was in fact trying to put the flag back down after kicking some slush onto the trap.

Long story short... no fish, no flags, and an early trip into the camp to attend to one very wet leg... all I need to say is been there and done that...

She's fine and says she'll go with me again if her sister stays home...

Take care,

The Downeast Duck Hunter

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Left Behind...

This isn't exactly what I had intended to share in celebration of my 100 posts, but here goes...

It is with my upmost regret to inform my readership that my excitement and efforts towards the upcoming fishing trip to West Grand Lake have been halted.

Apparently our efforts towards the planning of this 4 day adventure neglected one key component- communication.

When scheduling this event, I honestly felt that the trip was to be from February 18th to the 21st. When I learned that my friends were getting excited about leaving on Thursday (today), I wasn't quite sure what was going on. To make a long story short, I had made all plans around the end of school vacation instead of taking time off before.

I hold myself responsible for this blunder, but can say I've got through the emotional states of failure. At first I was terribly mad, then quite upset, followed by an irritated frustration. Now, I am just bummed because all my planning has resulted in nothingness. But it is important to mention that I do hope my friends still have a great time, even though it stinks to know that I will not be a part of the good time.

We'll see how my vacation plays out...

On a side note, I have been working on moving my blog with a small twist- I'm dropping "the" and working on building

Until next time, The Downeast Duck Hunter

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Cathance Lake Special...

Yesterday, I took to the ice after a short hiatus from all things outdoors. The weekend weather systems haven't been all that pleasant, and I haven't had much time with the family as a result of my dual careers. However, once the word "salmon" was mentioned and with some planning, a cold day on the ice would be in order. I would ride with my uncle to meet up with my cousin and another good buddy on Cathance Lake in Cooper, Maine. It may sound strange, but I've driven by the lake many times and never even considered it a viable option. Trolling for salmon seems to be popular in the spring, but I never had a reason to go there especially since I could hit the salmon on Gardner's Lake which is 20 minutes closer. Anyways, back to the story...

Once we got to the landing and unloaded, we made a short jaunt to the spot chosen by the dynamic duo who put Liquid's truck on the ice. Aptly named the S(tress)-10, the teal green pickup has been highly modified as the sportman's dream. A pressure treated wooden flat bed trimmed with eye screws provide for any securement while the stick shift gives the driver the ability to draw arms as an old Ruger pistol grip meets the hand for speed shifting. If you can bog the motor down just enough and then gear from 4th and 2nd with a little extra pedal, you can experience some boom, boom, pow and feel the shock wave from miles away. Needless to say, I'd guess the truck would be worth more below the ice than above it. Just kidding Liquid, you ride is very well pimped...

The boys had already set out, so Uncle and I made quick work with the ice auger and got our traps set. I chose to run straight out from an island into deeper water in hopes of hooking a salmon that might be swinging by the point. This line was completed by 9:20 and by 9:31 as I began to return to our post, the first flag sprang into the air. Once I neared the hole protected by a freezing slush wall to fight the drifting snow, I noticed the Heritage Laker spool spinning with intention. You forget what it's like to hook a bigger fish, especially since I've been chasing brook trout for the last two years. But on any account, I let the line run a tad more and began to retrieve the fish which I knew was a landlocked salmon. At first it felt like a log, then there was no resistance, then it was going in all directions. Eventually, the mono filament pulled out of the hole and a beautiful 19 inch salmon shined against the blue bird sky...

Liquid would yank out a foot long brook shortly thereafter and that would be the beginning of the end as I only had wind flags and prank flags for the remainder of our stay. We spent much time moving the Stress-10 to block the steady but shifting wind. I'm thankful for my cold weather gear, it was below 10 degrees and the persistent breeze made for a bitter adventure...

We grilled bear and moose steak, while sampling some deer sausage on the side with some boiled coffee and Coca-Cola slush puppies. Needless to say, I'm pleased with the day and would consider it to be a great primer for the big trip in Grand Lake Stream. T-minus 12 Days!!!

Have a good one,

The Downeast Duck Hunter

Monday, February 1, 2010

Brought back to life...

Tim checking the track and other aspects of snowmobiling mechanics...

Before my father-in-law passed, he found it quite important to make sure what things were to go where. All things hunting, fishing, and outdoors related would become mine unless I had no need for them. He often mentioned, "There is no reason for you to buy that, take mine and bring it back when your done". Unfortunately, there is no more borrowing of his items of "outdoor affection".

Some sporting items are absolutely priceless to me such as his Winchester Model 94 given to him on his 16th birthday by his father and some fly fishing rods that even I wasn't allowed to use. But much of his gear (as I'll call it) was everyday, basic equipment that was usually found under the "right" circumstances. If my father-in-law was anything, he was a fixer and imaginary who believe everything had value or could be modified to perform any service. In addition, he knew when a purchase was "right" and how it would help better achieve his outdoor pursuits.

Enter the 1988 Yamaha Exciter snowmobile. About two years ago, Papa picked up a snowmobile that hadn't been used for two years prior. He and a friend spent a day spraying into the cylinder to free up the pistons eventually to get the sled running. It never had been used hard, and Papa took the 570 cc snowmobile for a 30 mile jaunt with complete satisfaction. He knew it had another life in it, however that would be the last time he rode the sled.

Last May, he gave me the sled and proclaimed that it would make a wonderful "toy" for ice fishing, short trips, and entertainment for the girls. I accepted simply because it was so important for me to have it, apparently he knew that I would be able to put it to good use.

I didn't get around to getting it until this past fall. With the hectic summer and trying to deal with the consequences of losing a most loved man, time got by me and eventually it got to a point that I discover whether or not this machine would be of value. Papa's purchase didn't ever worry me, it was the two years it sat covered in the backyard. The Yamaha again had frozen up, and there was little I could do at that point.

One weekend after helping with the woodpile, I concocted a crude pulley system where I actually pulled the snowmobile onto a trailer, then anchored the line on the plow truck and while I drove forward the snowmobile slid up the ramp off of the trailer and perfectly into my truck. I'm not sure if I even understand what I just wrote, but needless to say I was quite impressed with my rough engineering.

I found myself visiting my buddy Tim, a gas engine aficionado who loves anything dealing with motors. We began the process of troubleshooting and quickly "unfroze" the piston with some PB Blaster directly into the cylinders as I continued to turn the starting key. Slowly but surely, things were moving and we got to changing the fuel to see if the sled would start. In a matter of moments and with a degree of anticipation, the snowmobile was running and sounding surprisingly "excellent".

With this good fortune, I forwarded the sled to a local ATV and snowmobile repair shop for a carburetor cleaning, new battery, and overall inspection. The feedback was dismal at first as the two carburetors were reckoned unfit for service, but one day later the mechanic called to inform me of better news. With some replacement parts and some hope, the sled was fully operable and running well. What amazes me the most is that this sled is 22 years old with 7,600 miles on it, these statistics don't coincide with the fact that it runs perfectly and looks well kept. I guess Papa saw a deal the day he picked it up.

I've put about 50 miles on the sled to ensure that my trip to West Grand Lake may not end in a breakdown. About 8 years ago, I discovered that problem in the middle of the lake about 7 miles from the cabin. We'll hope I don't perform a repeat of that great act again and these four days for perfect running. I'm confident that the old sled will do well, Papa didn't intend for anything different.